Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day, the only day completely dedicated to appreciating our planet and all it does for us, even though it deserves our attention every day. Sort of like Mother’s Day, but for Mother Earth instead.
At The Forks, we do our best to make caring for the environment one of our top priorities with Target Zero. Our goal is a big one: zero garbage, zero water waste, and zero carbon emissions.
Here are 7 things we’re doing to help make Winnipeg a greener place.
1. Turning fries into fuel
Between all of the restaurants and fast food merchants on our site, we go through a lot of vegetable oil using the deep fryers. Instead of trashing it, we fuel our site maintenance vehicles with waste vegetable oil. By filtering the oil using a centrifuge and some modifications to engines, we have successfully operated our diesel equipment year-round.
Currently, our site truck, three of our gators, refrigerated reefer and Zamboni are all being fueled by waste vegetable oil. Eating another plate of fries is totally helping the environment.
2. Using a geothermal heat pump system
Our old HVAC system was on the fritz, so we took the opportunity to install a geothermal system that uses energy stored in the earth, the river and ground water and recycles the energy produced in The Forks Market.
Energy is collected from three separate wells. There are two large radiators sitting at the bottom of the Assiniboine River, and an open loop right underneath the southwest corner of the Market collecting energy from the ground water. All the ventilation in the Market was redesigned with efficient units that pre-heat the fresh air with recycled heat generated by the restaurants. We also installed 53 heat pumps throughout the Market to efficiently distribute heating and cooling.
This may sound boring, but what it means is since its installation, we’ve cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 42% – preventing 448 tonnes of CO2e from being released into the atmosphere. That’s heavier than nearly 200 rhinos. If air pollution came in the form of an angry rhino, there might not be an air pollution problem.
3. Composting old stuff to grow new stuff
We generate a lot of organic waste here between the food merchants, restaurants, hotel and yard trimmings. Eighty percent of our “garbage” is compostable. Our in-vessel composter BIOVATORTM creates perfect conditions for trillions of microbes and bacteria to digest organic matter. This process creates a nutrient-rich compost that we use as top-dressing and soil amendment in our gardens.
Right now, we’re looking into finding a way to help our visitors minimize their environmental impact while enjoying The Forks. These plans include composting bins near all trash bins and getting our vendors using 100% compostable plates, cutlery and napkins.
4. Reducing water use when you gotta use it
We installed low-flow toilets and waterless urinals to reduce our water use. Each urinal saves over 150,000 litres of water per year. Together with the low-flow toilets, these changes save the building over 2 million litres of water annually.
5. Getting on our bikes and riding
A true sign of spring is when you can bike to The Forks without hitting any icy patches. We’ve been expanding our bike paths to make it easier for you to get here without fuelling up. Once you’re here, we’re also your one-stop bike shop: rent or buy a new set of wheels from White Pine Bicycle Co., spend some quality time with friends on a Bee2gether tandem bike, or give your aluminum steed some love with the bike service station in front of The Forks Market.
6. Using our local, natural resources
Our irrigation systems use river water throughout the site – that includes water that keeps the lawn green and the crokicurl icy. We also installed two large rainwater tanks in our parkade, which we use to maintain our ice skating surfaces in the winter. With these initiatives plus the toilets, The Forks Market alone saves three Olympic-sized pools of water every year!
7. Making like trees and leaf-ing them to grow
We’ve planted 500+ trees in the last 10 years, but we’re not stopping there! We’re continuing so we can keep greening our site and offsetting carbon. Our home is a beautiful place, and it’s only getting lovelier with our urban garden, public orchard and prairie garden, PLUS all those fabulous shade-giving friends.
Here’s how you can be greener on your next visit to The Forks:
• Bring a tote bag to carry your shopping
• Bike here!
• Bring a re-usable mug or bottle for your drink
• Check out merchants that sell sustainable and organic products, like
Generation Green or Grass Roots Prairie Kitchen
• Go vintage – shop the antique mall at Johnston Terminal instead of buying new
We’re offering four free Target Zero Eco Tours on Saturday at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.
The tour stops at hot spots like the BIOVATORTM, the geothermal loops, and the rain water collectors. Check out all the event info here.
Let’s get outside today and appreciate our planet– especially now that Winnipeg is starting to turn from grey to green. Happy Earth Day!
By Diana Chabai, The Forks Marketing + Communications Intern